CHICAGO – Continuing its countdown of the 25 Greatest Players in AFL History, the Silver Anniversary Committee has announced its selection for the 10th Greatest Player in AFL History: Damian Harrell.
Harrell caught 36 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns in his two-year collegiate career at Florida State University. Torn ligaments in his right knee suffered in the regular season finale against Florida caused him to miss the remainder of his senior year, including the Seminoles victory over Ohio State in the 1998 Sugar Bowl.
With his professional football future in jeopardy, Harrell seized the opportunity to join Mike Hohensee and the New England Sea Wolves of the Arena Football League in 1999. He made his debut on April 23 against the Florida Bobcats and finished the year with 25 receptions for 362 yards and nine touchdowns.
His sophomore campaign in 2000 looked promising, as Harrell led the team in receiving through the first seven games. However, a broken left forearm put a stop to his second season. The following season, Harrell took his talents north of the border as a member of the Toronto Phantoms. Finally healthy, his immense talent began to show. He hauled in 98 passes for 1,340 yards and 20 touchdowns. This marked the first of his AFL-record nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and the first time he recorded at least 20 touchdowns or more in a season, a feat accomplished eight times in his career and also an AFL record. He continued to flourish with the Phantoms in 2002, but when Harrell joined quarterback John Dutton and the Colorado Crush in 2003, Arena Football fans knew something special was about to happen.
At one point, Harrell enjoyed a streak of 78 consecutive games with a receiving touchdown, easily setting the AFL record.
“He was a true professional,” former Crush Head Coach Mike Dailey said of Harrell. “A smart, fierce competitor with great hands.”
In 2005, Harrell caught 122 passes for 1,486 yards and 41 touchdowns and was named the League’s Offensive Player of the Year while helping the Crush to an ArenaBowl XIX victory. The following season, he rewrote the record books, catching an unprecedented 60 touchdowns and scoring an AFL-record 366 points en route to his second consecutive Offensive Player of the Year award. Harrell spent the 2008 season with the Chicago Rush and joined the Milwaukee Iron in 2010, where he recorded his fifth career 100-catch season. He retired following the 2011 season as a member of the Milwaukee Mustangs and immediately transitioned into an assistant coaching role with the team in 2012, handling receivers and special teams duties.
A five-time All-Arena selection, Harrell ranks second in AFL history in total touchdowns (361) and points scored (2,172), and first in receptions (1,164), receiving yards (15,128) and receiving touchdowns (357). He will be eligible for the AFL Hall of Fame following the 2014 season.
25 Greatest Players in AFL History
10. Damian Harrell
11. Sylvester Bembery
12. Stevie Thomas
13. Kenny McEntyre
14. John Corker
15. Dwayne Dixon
16. Kurt Warner
17. Bob McMillen
18. Mark Grieb
19. Darryl Hammond
20. Alvin Rettig
21. Durwood Roquemore
22. Chris Jackson
23. Ben Bennett
24. Clevan Thomas
25. Gary Mullen